Chapter Twenty-one

The Winds of Chance

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“You thought I’d let you disappear?” Soran asked quietly. “Naïve, Faunos. Foolish. You’re brighter than that.” He stepped closer and dropped the cloak, hoping the young Zeheftiman would notice the absence of the gold and platinum amulet from his breast. No sword hung at his hip, no dirk.

He came to the Quezelus absolutely unarmed, without the warrant of his office -- without anything but the desire to stop Faunos and talk with him as freemen talked. Faunos appeared to have frozen, he was barely breathing. Soran had more than half expected a fight, or flight, and realized that no part of this meeting would be as he had anticipated. He moderated his voice, sweetened his tone. “Where were you going?”

The witchboy’s shoulders first lifted in a shallow shrug, and then slumped visibly. “I don’t know. Anywhere you wouldn’t find me, I suppose. First, to Thebes, because that’s where this ship is headed. And then another ship to … somewhere. Anywhere.”

“Thebes?” Soran took another step closer. “Thebes is a nest of vipers! You’re damned lucky you haven’t sailed headlong into pirates already, and I shudder to think what would have become of you.”

“We did sail into pirates,” Faunos said tersely. “And Senmet is still breathing this morning because I disobeyed everything my teacher ever said.” His eyes glittered, the green and gold sparklets danced in them, even in sunlight. “I killed a man. I sent some swaggering, stinking baboon by the name of Eudoros into the embrace of Hados.”

Now Soran checked, knowing he should believe what Faunos said, and yet struggling to. Even the witchfinder knew the name of Eudoros -- the man was notorious. He had murdered, raped and pillaged his way around the skirts of the empire for more than ten years. Both Priolas and Senmet had crossed swords with him several times. Eudoros was dead? This slip of a boy, not yet even come of age, had killed him?

“How?” he asked, feeling winded, as if he had been punched.

“With his own axe.” Faunos looked away. “A big double-curved axe, like the ones venerated by the worshippers of the bull. I buried his weapon in his gut, deep as his spine, one second before he would have cut Senmet’s throat with the same axe. You don’t believe me? Ask Senmet! Ask Afris -- he was there, he saw it.”

Soran took a long deep breath and glanced sidelong at the big Nubiyen, who was hovering -- close enough to hear every word, and quite close enough to get between Soran and Faunos in two long strides, if the witchfinder had come to claim his quarry. “Peace, Afris,” he said quietly. “You know me.”

The lion-maned head tilted at him. “I know you as the witchfinder, my lord … but to this little one from Zeheft, we owe a debt, all of us. We live today, and are free, because of him.” He gestured at Faunos, and his voice dropped to a rasping murmur. “Eudoros once swore he would flay my back for a pair of sandals, take my teeth for a necklace, and let me rot at the oar of a galley till flies and fleas ate me alive.”

“The sunlight is brighter, the wind is sweeter, with Eudoros gone out of the world. And you’ll notice,” Soran said deliberately, jerking a thumb at his own breast, “I’ve no amulet, no sword, no weapon. Does it look like I came here as Vayal’s witchfinder?” He met Faunos’s dark, stormy eyes levelly, but spoke to Afris. “The witchboy and I must talk, and privately. Faunos, do you have a cabin, or did they bunk you with the crew?”

“I have a cabin.” Faunos’s voice was shaky, filled with uncertainty. Soran waited. Afris was poised like a dancer on the balls of his feet, ready to pounce, and for a moment Soran was sure Faunos would tell him to do it. And then Faunos said hoarsely, “I can at least listen to what he wants to say, Afris. I should be safe, if he knows you’ll wring his neck like a chicken if he does me harm.”

Afris dropped a stiff bow and stood aside. “My lord,” he said to Soran with acid sweetness, “be assured, this is exactly what I’ll do.”

“Be assured,” Soran told him, “doing the Zeheftiman harm is the last reason I came here. Trust me now, as you always have.” And before Afris could change his mind, he laid a hand on Faunos’s shoulder to get his moving.

The boy led the way down and aft, into a cubicle much smaller than the shepherd’s hut. Its only virtue was privacy. With an expression of disdain, Soran gave it one glance, and then deliberately threw the bolt on the door and stood in front of it.

He folded his arms on his breast and studied Faunos broodingly. The boy looked so tired, weary to the bone, and yet so beautiful. “You’re lucky,” Soran whispered. “On any other ship I know, you could have been drugged in your sleep and bound hand and foot. You’d be on your way back to Vayal this morning -- or more likely to a market in Karnossos, where beauties like yourself fetch the best prices.”

“And now you’ll kill me,” Faunos said hoarsely, “so what does it matter? I lived an extra day. Should I be so grateful to see one more sunset, one more dawn?” He sat on the edge of the bunk and pressed his face into his hands. “Don’t take me back. They’d have my hide and my bones for nothing, since I can’t tell your priests any more than they already know. I’m the last. There’s no one left to be named, and betrayed, and I have no idea where the other two foci are. No one knows.” His eyes closed and his chin bowed onto his chest. “I haven’t the skill to fight you. Or the strength. You don’t see the Eye of Helios on my wrist, so what chance have I? Don’t take me back, Soran. Kill me, quick and clean, as you promised in Zeheft.”

The monologue was spoken in a low, defeated voice, and Soran’s heart went out to him. “You’ve lost everything, haven’t you? Your people are scattered and gone, your teacher is dead, your family is either dead or so far away, you might never find them. What little remained of Zeheft is burned to cinders.”

Faunos did not look up. “I am the last prince of royal Zeheft … the lord of crabs and fishes, for my kingdom lies in the ocean now. I have nothing.”

“You’re the custodian of the secrets of a lost age,” Soran whispered. “The old high magicks of your people are alive in you. Faunos? Faunos, look at me.” Still, he did not lift his head, and Soran sighed. “How can I make you believe, I didn’t come here to hurt you? Harming you is the last thought on my mind.” His voice was dark, purring. “I came here to do many things to you, but dealing death isn’t one of them.”

At last Faunos looked up, confused, exhausted -- wary as a lame old wolf. “What do you want of me?”

“Will you hear me out?” Soran asked quietly. “The way you made me listen to you, when you bound me in thrall, before Zeheft was burned.”

“Why should I have any interest in a word you have to say?” Faunos demanded.

Soran heard the weary resentment and only smiled. “You will, when you’ve heard me. But I don’t trust you not to get your hands on that gem again, and if you do, you can overpower me like that.” He snapped his fingers. “If you want to live, and prosper, you’ll listen to me. You’ll also let me bind you for my own safety -- not with magicks, for I don’t have the gift. I do believe you could call the name of Afris, and perhaps even Senmet himself, and they’d rush in here and beat me bloody! So you’ll let me bind you while you hear me out. Yes?”

Dumbfounded, confused, Faunos first bridled in outrage and the nodded mutely. Large eyed, he watched as Soran unwound several lengths of soft leather from the girdle at his hips. When Soran gave him a shove onto the bunk, he went down, stayed down, and the leather bound his wrists over his head and his ankles to the foot of the bunk’s wooden frame.

“One shout from my throat,” Faunos said breathlessly, “and Afris will be in here. The bolt on that door won’t stop him.”

“I’ll give you no reason to call out,” Soran swore. “You’ll hear every word I say, and then you’ll tell me where your heart lies. I’ve taken terrible risks to come after you. If I return to Vayal without you, it’ll be me in the vaults, while Druyus amuses himself with my agonies, for he and Azhtoc will assume -- rightly! -- I know some fraction of your secrets. What you are, what you can do, where you’ve gone. They’re right. I do know a great deal. I know your name, I’ve seen the Eye of Helios, and I’ve seen you use it. I know you’re headed for Thebes, and the ship you’re aboard … and I know you’re the One foretold by the prophecy.”

Turn page to Chapter Twenty-one continued...

Return to Chapter Twenty...

About Legends...

This story has its roots in the 1980s. About the time I signed with GMP, I was kicking around the idea for a massive novel -- the problem being, I had no time to develop it. At the time, one of my "literary friends" was Lane Ingram, who passed away some years ago. When Lane volunteered to develop the narrative from my storyline, I was surprised and very agreeable; and a version of it was circulated on a small scale, to a very appreciative audience!

Lane had no aspirations to be a professional novelist, which meant writing was fun, and remained fun, while I did battle with "style" and "technique." And then one day Lane was gone, without leaving much of anything to mark the place in the world which had once bee occupied by an individual who was large in every sense of the word.

Let's change that. I'm bringing LEGENDS "to the screen" in a form which preserves as much of Lane's input as I possibly can, while at the same time properly developing it, bringing it up to full professional standard ... cutting and trimming, correcting the errant, though enthusiastic, amateur ... polishing it to the professional sparkle you've come to expect from Mel Keegan.

LEGENDS will be Lane's memorial. Here's to you, kiddo, wherever you are: enjoy.

Ebook screenreaders:

Downloading LEGENDS and reading from the computer screen? Join the club! Most people are stuck in the same situation ... and it's a right-royal pain. At this time, MK also is still trying to make the transition to one of the ebook screenreaders. The price of most of them is still high, but in the course of shopping around, Mel has found two that are coming under extremely close scrutiny. The Bebook and the Sony look like being the best deals at this time. In due course, we'll be reviewing them right here. Mel Keegan has decided it's going to be one of these two -- but they're very comparable, so ... take your pick. Either one would be perfect for reading LEGENDS, or other digital novels.

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Research Tales

A great deal of research for this novel was done, and subjects Atlantean most often begun with a study of the Trojan wars.

Why? Because the iLiad is one of the very oldest bodies of writing which is also extensive enough to be useful. The problem with the iLiad is -- unless you're fluent in Ancient Green (and who is?) you'll be working from the translations ... and the "disagreement" between them is counfounding for one who's not a Homerian scholar!

The solution? Track down a book that translates the translations -- gets them out of the rich, ripe, flowery language of poetry and into a solid historical context. And in this, MK lucked out. Such a book exists: The Trojan War by Barry Strauss. It reads like a novel, and if you wanted something to get your teeth into ... perhaps after watching the movie, Troy, or after reading Legends -- this is the book you've been looking for.

There's another very scholarly work, The Flood From Heaven by Eberhard Zanger, which "deciphers the evidence" and places Atlantis at Troy! Now, Legends is about five thousand miles from Zanger's work (literally -- due west!) but having said that, Zanger is to Plato what Strauss is to Homer, and the work was extremely helpful.

Now, working even further back through time, you want a "scholar" (and note the quotation marks on that word) who spent a lifetime researching (ouch!) Atlantis. And again, MK lucked out, because there is such a man. A very brilliant man by the name of Ignatius Donnelly, whose "pop-science" book, dating from 1882, is still in print today, in several editions! It's thorough, it's astonishing, and it makes ... quite a case for Atlantis. Not that anyone believes in such things. Right?

There are also some good documentaries on DVD, if this is altogether far too much reading!

And of course, if you want to get into the spirit of the thing (!) you can always put on Troy and let Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and company provide the inspiration! Speaking of which, have you seen the director's cut? Highly recommended.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION: Legends is copyright 2009 by Mel Keegan. Please do download the whole novel, which is in HTML format, compatible with your screenreader, PC or Mac. However ... please don't gift it to your friends. Instead, give them the url of this page and recommend that they download it for themselves. The reason is simple: author's income is earned via the adverting on these pages. If they're not loaded, nothing is earned. MK has bills to pay too, and for your cooperation ... thank you kindly!

Note that Legends is NOT covered by the "Creative Commons." This work is the intellectual property of Mel Keegan. If you would like to use parts of it elsewhere, please contact MK via this blog.

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